Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Question of Violence

Everyone seems to agree there's violence in the air. The hot air coming from the far right as well as the charged air generated by computer games (though I've never played one), rap music (so I'm told)) and competitive sports. The first two are out of my league but as to football, basketball and baseball I have no alibi.

While watching a game my reptilian brain takes over and I start cheering and jeering from my glands. If I get too emotionally invested I may even grow fangs and speak in grunts. Terms like, throwing a bomb, killer instinct and shot gun formation are all part of the vocabulary.

Does this make me an accessory to the fact? When the judge asks the defendant to rise should I get up from the couch? It begs the question: Does violence in movies, TV, sports etc... blunt our consciousness and lead us into temptation and worse or do we see it as theatre which sublimates that aggression?

This is a conundrum that has been argued since I was a kid with my nose in a comic book. I can only speak of my experience as a mild-mannered pharmacist. Even when I was held-up at gunpoint I didn't fly into a rage. In fact my instinct was to keep the gunman calm. I get more excited watching the Dodgers blow a three run lead in the 9th.

A distinction needs to be made between the images and language we are fed as entertainment and the inflammatory and mendacious messages we hear from the Limbaughians and Palinoids. Since shopping is our national obsession we are pretty savvy consumers. With even a modicum of discernment we know the difference between the real and make believe.

Trash talk among athletes or even spectators is usually left on the playing field. When fans yell, Kill the Ump or the contest goes into sudden death it's a degraded form of watching Shakespeare's Dick-3 or Hank-5. The players are high-priced actors and maybe we owe them a debt for vicariously spilling our collective hormones instead of declaring World War III.

They are of a far different order than the militia of armed nitwits seen at town-hall meetings and rallies shouting mindless slogans and holding malevolent signs. Ironically they are doing the heavy lifting for the very forces that brought them to their sorry state. The rage is orchestrated by right wing interests pandering to latent racism and a diffused sense of impotence. The assassin of the abortion doctor did not walk out of a sports bar nor are the Teabagians likely to have season tickets to Othello or Sweeney Todd.

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